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Does intuition play a role in modern herbal practice?

  • Katie Pande
    Katie Pande

    Katie is a qualified Medical Herbalist, and member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH), currently practicing in Shaftesbury. Katie holds a BSc (Hons) in Herbal Medicine and a BSc (Hons) in Plant and Environmental Biology.

    Her decision to study herbal medicine was sparked whilst she was studying for a degree in plant biology in Scotland. She spent the summer of my 2nd year in Egypt undertaking conservation work and, unfortunately became ill. No conventional medicines proved effective, and it was only after taking advice from the local Bedouin ‘medicine man’ that she started to recover. She has since deduced that this miracle plant was a relative of the Thyme family. It made her aware of how plants have the power to support whole communities by becoming sources of food, shelter and, most importantly, medicine. It was this experience that encouraged her to embark on a second degree in herbal medicine.

    Katie is passionate about herbs because they stimulate the body’s natural healing ability. One of the most important philosophies in herbal medicine is not to mimic the natural regulatory processes of the body but to stimulate these processes so that the body can then heal itself. In today’s society it can be difficult to regain our connection to nature and the earth: The incorporation of healing plants into our daily lives can help us reconnect with the earth and also encourage our body’s natural rhythms which can become somewhat lost in the workings of the modern world. Katie believes that true healing is rooted in enabling the individual to reconnect to themselves and helping them to understand the health of their whole body.

  • 13:37 reading time (ish)
  • Western Herbal Medicine

Written by Katie Pande

Here we discuss the value of intuition and how it relates to modern herbal practice. We delve into the concept of herbal medicine being a form of holistic therapy and, therefore, needing to encompass a wide range of diagnostic factors.

What is intuition?

Intuition as a concept is difficult to define in words. There are numerous definitions of the term ‘intuition’ but the vast majority of them refer to it as a form of knowing and behaving that is not based on rational reasoning; intuition is knowing without knowing how one knows. The inability to provide a rationale for an action or decision made can make the role of intuition in a clinical setting challenging to accept. In conventional medicine the majority of decisions are based upon the outcomes of clinical trials, laboratory and scientific testing. When this is compared with intuition which is an instant understanding of knowledge without evidence it is not difficult to see why, in some medical professions, the credibility of intuition is somewhat reduced or seen as unequal in comparison to ‘factual’ knowledge. However, this does not necessarily dispute the concept that intuition can play a role in a modern herbal practice. Whether or not intuition is in fact a valuable source of knowledge, how it manifests within the practitioner and to what degree the effectiveness of intuitive ability is affected by variables such as experience and confidence levels will be analysed in order to conclude about the role that intuition plays in a modern herbal practice.

In order to analyse the role of intuition it is first necessary to try and understand it as a concept. Physical awareness, emotional awareness and making connections are representative of the three sources of knowledge or ‘knowing’ involved in intuitive thought processes. Physical awareness represents knowledge interpreted through the body’s sensory organs. Emotional awareness represents knowledge achieved through emotional feelings and empathy. Making connections is symbolic of linking these physical and emotional sources of knowledge together to form a sense of intuition. In the current educational climate a great degree of emphasis is placed upon the acquisition of ‘knowledge’. However, the type of knowledge desired is not often the intuitive, somewhat unconscious, form.

Intuition is rarely recognised as a conscious thought process; therefore there has to be some questioning as to how an individual would be able to identify the physical and emotional aspects of intuitive thought processing. Intuitive information is believed to be received by two organs; the heart and the brain but it is the heart that receives the information first. It is suggested that chills down the spine, headaches, restlessness, increased heart rate and muscle tightness particularly in the stomach can be a result of intuitive processes occurring. The circulatory system in the abdomen (or ‘belly brain’) contains similar cell types and neurotransmitters to the brain and that despite being unable to think with this system, feelings and experiences can be remembered and recalled. Therefore our ‘belly brain’ has the ability to recognise new situations based on past experiences and so an individual’s ‘gut reaction’ is considered as a non-cognitive form of knowledge. Experiments into this concept were undertaken that came to the conclusion that the ‘belly brain’ is more perceptive than previously suspected and that intuition may, as a consequence, have a basis in fact. With the assumption, therefore, that intuition is a form of knowledge; it has to be argued as to whether to restrict the depth and breadth of knowledge that could potentially be used within a clinical environment by not incorporating intuition into it would affect patient care and satisfaction. It is thought that, to accomplish effective and humane patient care, all ways of ‘knowing’ should be utilised.

Katie Pande

Katie is a qualified Medical Herbalist, and member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH), currently practicing in Shaftesbury. Katie holds a BSc (Hons) in Herbal Medicine and a BSc... Read more

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